What is the feeling you get when you feel heard? Really heard? In relationships, there comes a time when a crucial conversation needs to be had. It is not always fun for anyone but is necessary to strengthen the bond between you and your partner. Open communication is important for connecting with one another, and without it, you are left feeling sad and misunderstood. The best way to avoid this is to have a mindful conversation, which requires intention, focus, and compassion. Here are the best ways to have a mindful conversation:
- Listen. I’m pretty sure it is one of the magical tools of therapy. This opportunity where your feelings and thoughts and reflections are heard, actively heard and validated. Mindful communication starts with the ability to really listen to one another. That is why this week’s episode of Shortcuts to Zen with Jen is so important. Imagine what the world would be like if we all just shared this gift of listening to those we speak with in everyday life. I don’t know about you but the people who REALLY listen to me, stand out in my mind and heart. You can tell when someone is mindfully communicating with you when they are actively listening by maintaining eye contact, giving you verbal and non-verbal feedback, and reflecting what you said back to you. It can be a rare find these days so may we all work on it just even a tad more.
- Pause. In this clip on Mindful Conversing, I talk about stopping when you are in an argument with a loved one. It’s not easy. When our fight or flight has been activated, we want to defend all day long. Yet, there is often so much power in stopping and watching what we are about to say in our minds before we say it and really measuring whether or not it will be helpful. Mindful conversing gives us the opportunity to feel the weight of what we are about to say before we say it and measure the pros and cons. It saves important conversations from going down a dark tunnel and maintains compassionate and effective communication. When I do this, I feel so incredibly empowered–like a true badarse–versus what I feel like when I say something I regret.
- Create distance and reconvene. Oh ladies and gents, please listen to this one. I can’t tell you how much this comes up in couples counseling. Picture this: you’re in an argument with your partner. Spit is flying. Childhood wounds are poked. Suddenly, one person walks away (distancer) and the other person is like: “Oh hell no!!!”. And they go charging for the other person (pursuer). This is the oh so common, real-life example of the pursuer and distancer dynamic in relationships. You know it. You’ve likely experienced it. It’s frustrating. I believe that both sides can learn a lot from another. Still, from a Mindfulness perspective, creating distance around a heated conversation is one of the most effective tools I know of. It’s not about putting a muzzle on your mouth or never having the conversation. It’s about making an appointment to have it at a time when emotions are even and fight or flight is calm.
Remaining mindful while conversing with your partner is important in these situations because you avoid the consequence of saying something you didn’t mean while in the heat of the moment. Our interpersonal relationships benefit from the space to bring in awareness to the conversations we are having so that when conflict does arise, we recognize when we are overreacting. From there, we can take a time-out to bring us back to a place where we can have healthy, mindful conversations with each other. With practice, you will be able to have effective, mindful conversations with your loved ones.